With approximately three weeks left until the deadline date of February 24th, what better way to continue this blog than with cheap theatrics. Coming from me you should be used to them by now.
When the unlawful detainer is served the process of fighting eviction will begin in earnest. The year long notice period has just been a waiting game. Service will be on the deadline date or any day thereafter.
Contrary to the damsel tied to the railroad ties images that eviction conjures up, there probably won’t be a time when I’ll have to turn on a dime and get out of here immediately. I’m expecting a long slog that will eventually be worked out by lawyers.
Up until now my landlord, Vince Young, and his attorney, Denise Leadbetter, have used the eviction process as a means of intimidation. And it’s worked. Five of the seven units did not want to fight them and they are now empty.
Those tenants were younger than me and at a very busy times in their lives building careers and going to school. They wanted to stay but didn’t want to deal with the hassel. And they had concerns about having their names associated with an eviction.
They envisioned scenarios of showing up at a job interview one day only to be questioned about a google search that showed they’d once been evicted. There is no nuance in the public’s thinking about eviction, if you’ve been involved in one you probably can’t be trusted. Eviction profiteers like Vince Young know this and it’s a valuable tool for them.
But, as I told my attorney, I am fortunate that my reputation was ruined decades ago. And I didn’t need anyone’s help in doing it.
The Real Estate Industry and its newsletter, the San Francisco Chronicle, like to ignore these tenants who give into the threat and don’t pursue a court action. They point to the 2000 eviction cases a year which does seem like a small amount.
It has been estimated, however, for every two units in a building that fight the action there are 3-5 units that do not. And when you consider the number of tenants in each unit, it ends up affecting people in the tens of thousands. Curiously, the City does not keep statistics on people who settle or just give up without going to court.
So, flipping into Norma Rae mode I mailed my February rent check yesterday morning. Let the countdown begin.
Probably the most difficult thing we do this time of year is decide which photo to use on our holiday greeting cards. I am blessed to have so many to choose from this Christmas.
It has been exactly one year since our landlords Vince Young, Leslie Young, and the Young Family Trust dba as 946 Jones LLC tried to evict my upstairs neighbor Jim and me. It was an owner move in eviction which was illegal because I was a senior.
My landlords and their counsel knew this but, as with most eviction profiteers who count on people not knowing their rights, sometimes the intimidation alone is enough to get someone out. When I officially notified them of my protected status they withdrew those evictions.
They then said that they “had no choice” but to evict everyone in the building under the Ellis Act. Vince Young wanted the building to move in his elderly father, his caretakers and other assorted cousins and relatives. He told the other tenants he had to do the Ellis evictions because I had failed to cooperate in the first round. Nice touch blaming me for his greed.
Despite the existence of five empty units, over the last year there have been no signs of Vince Young, Leslie Young or any other assorted Youngs moving in. Nor has there been any construction on the new elevator he said they would be installing to get the father to his third floor unit.
My guess is the elevator isn’t in yet because the construction workers couldn’t get their equipment past the garbage in the doorway.
Judge Judy has spoken and, much to my surprise, I won a minor victory before the Rent Board. They found that my monthly rent was miscalculated and I was paying $15 too much. In addition I’m owed $587.94 in overpaid rent. So we’ll see what happens with this. I’ve got some ideas…..
My best friend David owned the vintage clothing store Matinee on Polk Street. One day he needed help and asked me to fill in. My personality isn’t really suited for sales. I am always polite and courteous but I’m also honest.
I was helping a customer who hemmed and hawed over a blouse. She couldn’t make up her mind. Finally I told her, “if you don’t really like it you probably shouldn’t buy it.” David overheard this and pulled me off the floor. I worked the register the rest of the day.
He found a better use for my talents another afternoon when he asked me to live model in his window. Customers selected outfits from the store for me to try on. I obliged by doing my best to entertain both sides of the plate glass.
I’ve been watching the Roosevelts on PBS and learned how TR’s pledge not to seek reelection compromised his second term agenda. He regretted it later but he did the honorable thing and kept his word. That we should have been so lucky with our mayor.
Ed Lee was an unknown City Administrator named to finish Mayor Newsom’s term when he was elected Lieutenant Governor. Lee made it clear he was just a placeholder.He solemnly swore he would not be a candidate in the next election. Until the filing deadline approached and he declared he was a candidate.
His reasoning was that, in a town where most people didn’t even know his name, there was a groundswell that could not be ignored. “Run Ed Run!” became the battle cry of the hundred paid volunteers who made themselves available for every possible photo op. The City was swept with the fervor of organized spontaneity that only machine politics and docile local reporting can produce.
Other than sitting by passively and watching diversity in San Francisco vanish, he’s had a rather unnoteworthy reign. In the City’s blood feud with the 49ers he was able to persuade Paul McCartney to have his concert at Candlestick and not at the new Santa Clara stadium. It turned out to be a huge fiasco because of inadequate staffing.
Friends told me it took 3 1/2 hours to get in and reportedly two to five thousand ticket holders missed the whole concert because they couldn’t park. The Mayor responded by adamantly standing behind a no refunds policy. It’s what he does best, take the money and Run Ed Run!
As Mayor, real estate developers are walking all over him as old landmarks are torn down on every block and new luxury condos go up in their place. In a nod to the people, about 10% of the new units are earmarked to be affordable, i.e., $600K instead of a million. In his dollars and cents administration, there’s a lot more revenue in property taxes on condos than there is in rentals.
Meanwhile entire apartment buildings are being vacated in record numbers by Ellis Act speculators. They find it more profitable to take units off the market for five years than to allow current renters to stay. With people losing their apartments, the number of available units dwindling rapidly, and the lack of any new apartment construction, no one has stepped forward to lead us out of the mess. The Mayor’s bold position has been to wait for the State Legislature to pass something, if not this year then maybe next.
The symbol for the crisis is the Google buses that ferry workers back and forth to the peninsula. They stop at several Muni bus stops around the City which probably isn’t legal. Whether the riders are the source of the apartment problem is debatable but they do represent a class of people with a lot of money to burn on housing.
To quell the uproar the Mayor is charging the tech companies a token dollar a day for use of the stops. He cites an old state law that prohibits him from charging private companies for use of public infrastructure. Funny, as an individual I can be fined $200 and towed if I park in a bus stop. But when it comes to our fellow citizens the corporations, Run-Ed-Run’s hands are tied.
For aesthetic purposes alone the buses should be banned. They are ugly, generic cereal boxes on wheels that don’t fit the City’s quaint streets. But San Francisco loves its transportation history and my theory is that someday tourists will have a new option to add to climbing cable cars and sentimental trolleys. It’s only a matter of time before they’ll be selling tickets for the Goog-Mobile at the Wharf.
Like Frank Sinatra or Sid Vicious, I tend to chew and spit life my way. In the 1980s, not many gay men had a lot of straight friends but I did. Most of my gay brethren didn’t really like children. I loved them. And you didn’t hear of many gays throwing baby showers. I had a couple legendary ones in my apartment on Jones Street.
In 1988 I held one for my friends Teresa and Gary. Teresa and I shared a fascination for Gone With the Wind. She brought a Miss Melly gone awry level of energy to our friendship while mine was more Belle Watling, the sadder but wiser aging whore. Beyond the invitations I didn’t take the GWTW theme too far. I did add my own touches like the 1/2” cupie doll babies frozen in pink and blue ice cubes. And the male stripper from the Campus Theatre who I dressed in a diaper to serve drinks. He was a big hit and obviously enjoyed his work.
When his shift was over he went into the bedroom to get dressed. I followed to thank him and give him his money. He wanted to get frisky and told me “it comes with the rate.” Although I try to live by Gore Vidal’s dictum that you should never turn down an opportunity to be on television or to have sex, I just couldn’t ignore the 20 guests in the other rooms. I smiled, said sorry and sent him on his way. Despite that, it was a memorable evening.
The memories began 20 minutes before the party started with a call from Garden Sullivan Hospital telling me that my friend Jim had just died. He had lingered for months in hospice care and far exceeded the doctors original prediction that he would only be there a few weeks. In a moment of panic I called our mutual friend Marilyn in Australia to ask if she could notify the sister.
The family had remained at arms length and of little support during his illness but still they needed to be the first ones to know. I told her what was happening with my party. Marilyn told me to focus on the task at hand, she would make the call and we would talk again in the morning.
As the guests arrived I realized a couple of them knew Jim, some knew of him, but most didn’t know him at all. With so many AIDS deaths there was actually a protocol developing that I’d experienced a few times. If you were at some function and able to maintain your composure through the evening, you would carry on normally then quietly tell others who knew the person as you all left. So that’s what I did.
In the days following the baby shower I felt guilty for partying down after such devastating news and for not having a more emotional reaction. I’ve since learned that there is no right way to grieve, each time is different and, despite what made for TV movies teach us, there is no precise continuum for mourning. Even humor, alcohol or sex can work to get through the first awful days.
Two years before Jim died I visited him during a stay in San Francisco General. As I left he gave me an envelope of documents that he wanted me to read and keep for him. On the bus ride back downtown I opened it up. The first one I pulled out was his Will. As I started to read all I could think was what it must have been like for him to write the words that seemed to accept what was happening to him. And at only 35. There was nothing I could do about it. I rode home a sobbing mess on the 19 Polk.
The Bay Area Reporter ran a story about me today. Ostensibly the interview was about my Jackie collection but the conversation turned into a mash-up of Jackie, eviction, and drag. I was fine with that and pleased with the article except I look so old. But then so does Mick. It’s always fun to talk about Mrs. Onassis.
It all started in a Chinese Political Systems class back in the fall of 1972. As I leafed through my Warhol book I happened on his Jackie series. Inspiration struck. I turned to my friend and said “this is it!”
He was actually paying attention to the lecture and gave me a perturbed, “what’s it?”
I pointed to her and said “my Halloween costume.” We both started laughing. I knew I had a winner.
The Gay Halloween Dance at the Student Union was one of the biggest events of the year on campus. The pressure was on to be outlandish, everyone tried to outdo each other.
I thought my idea was the perfect antidote to glitzy, traditional drag. My idea contained the essential elements of Halloween: ghoulish, glamorous, sickening, sexy and instantly recognizable. Not to mention controversial and potentially in very bad taste.
I found a pink suit at the Goodwill and proceeded to alter it to resemble her Chez Ninon boucle. Food coloring mixed with ketchup served as the blood and brain matter. There was nothing haute about the reconstruction since I didn’t know how to sew. But as long as it produced the right effect, bas couture would have to do.
It did. People were stunned. I walked into the hall on Gary’s arm as he shouted “the President’s been shot!” Half the room was fascinated by it, the other half repulsed. The latter thought it cruel and callous making fun of America’s sainted widow (cum Greek shipping magnate courtesan). I was dealing with imagery not people.
It would have been one thing if I was mocking my next door neighbor who was killed in a hunting accident. But I was in the public domain here. This was a person I would never meet or ever know, an image that would be used for years to gain political advantage.
And it’s not like the Kennedy’s haven’t milked martyrdom. Every time one of Bobby’s kids takes the stand it begins with a litany of the family tragedies.
My connection to Jackie was sealed after that night. When I moved into my second San Francisco apartment on 14th Street, a friend brought me a house-warming gift. He had just moved into a flat on Page Street where someone left behind Jack and Jackie salt and pepper shakers. He re-gifted them to me.
I had no idea this kind of kitsch existed. I could only think how appalled such a refined woman like Jackie must have felt seeing herself represented in such tacky gewgaws. It made me love them even more.
Once the pattern was identified, the collection was off. I found a plate to match, then small pitchers, then another pattern, and on and on. Friends gave me Jackie ephemera they found like books, magazines, autographs, letters, head vases, and pictures. The collection grew exponentially.
The first couple decades it was a challenge to collect since I only wanted items that included her. Kennedy’s campaign teams considered Jackie too effete for the masses so her image was rarely used. The scarcity of propaganda using her meant I could go months without finding a thing.
Then eBay came along and it was like fish in a barrel. Many items I’d accumulated as unique were really rather commonplace. Though I had a lot that were not. I continued to search but the sport went out of it. I slowly just stopped collecting.
One morning back in the 1980’s I was having coffee with an overnight guest. We sat quietly in my dining room under Jackie’s serene gaze. Out of the blue he said, “it’s like being surrounded by death.” I hoped he was commenting on the shrine and not the night before.